Mario's: Style in the Great Northwest

Urbane clothing for men and women

"Our point of view is that Mario's is a lifestyle store," says Mario Bisio. "We want to provide our customers with the clothing they need for all facets of their lives. I believe in clothing appropriate to the occasion: casual clothes for casual times, business dress for business, formalwear for formal events."

His urbane clothing stores for men and women in Seattle and Portland exemplify this no-nonsense attitude. In a world of fast food and workout gear, Bisio is a champion of tailored clothing with a slightly more structured look than we've seen of late. "I think global events and economic conditions will accelerate a new cycle of more serious business dress," he says. "I mean men's suits in gray or navy with a hint of color in the subtle plaid or pinstripe. For some dash we would suggest a spread-collar dress shirt with a small check or stripe and a classic woven-silk tie. The emphasis, of course, should be on fabric, fit, and tailoring."

He speaks with authority. "My father founded the business in downtown Portland in 1938," says Bisio, "and I learned it from the bottom up. By the time I was in high school I was working on the floor as a salesman." Bisio became a full partner in 1973, after graduating from the University of Oregon.

He doubled the size of the Portland men's store and opened one for women in 1981; two years later he opened the men's and women's store in Seattle. (That store, with its 18,000 square feet of marble, stone floors, soaring ceilings, and magnificent staircase, was recently and extensively remodeled. And this fall, the Portland shops will find a new home in the Fox Tower.)

Along the way, Bisio trained his staff to search the world for the best merchandise and provide clientele with expert advice and service. His strength is knowing cut and quality. Even in active sportswear he prefers designs that are functional enough for athletes but stylish enough for lounging at home.

The range of shoes he carries is particularly strong: For men there are Mantellassi and Gravati; for women, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin; for both men and women there are casually elegant models from Tod's and Prada.

In every way Mario Bisio emphasizes a contemporary classic cut and clean silhouette: "My feeling is that people should look elegantly dressed without appearing contrived. Simplicity is a virtue that transcends fashion."

811 & 921 S.W. Morrison Street, Portland, OR (women, 503-241-8111; men, 503-227-3477).1513 Sixth Avenue, Seattle, WA (women, 206-622-6161; men, 206-223-1461).